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June 17, 2009 > Cinema's golden era returns

Cinema's golden era returns

By Meenu Gupta

Dazzling special effects and high definition of picture and sound may be the order of the day; however, the timeless gags of Charlie Chaplin or the epic films of D.W. Griffith are equally appealing. The silent film genre is alive and well in Niles and is celebrated in epic proportion annually at the Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, named after Broncho Billy Anderson, versatile American actor, writer, director and producer.

Now in its twelfth year, this festival is a rollicking yet harmonious haven promoting and preserving the artistic, historic and cultural heritage of the silent film era. Once again, Niles, the site of many productions, will host the Silent Film Festival at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum (NESFM). "The last weekend of June features early independent companies on the rise, they began with names like Lasky and Imp but are now called Paramount, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Fox, Universal and the like they got their start in the 1910's.We had so many films to feature they spilled over," said museum member Rena Dein.

Opening night, Friday, June 26, will feature James Cruze in "The Enemy Sex" (1924) along with "A Trip Through the Paramount Studio" (1927), "When Clubs Were Trumps" (1916), "The Butcher Boy".(1917). Short films introduced by Diana Serra Cary will be showcased on Saturday, June 27. "The Kid Reporter" (1923), "Good Night, Nurse" (1916), "Cousins of Sherlocko" (1912), Drink Hearty (1920) will be among many others. William MacInnes narrates the look of ghosts in "The Ghosts of Hollywood" (1931) at the Mack Sennett, Metro and other studios in ruins just before they are torn down. Facial expressions and acting abilities are worth watching.

On Saturday afternoon, June 27 get a sneak peek behind the scenes at the American Film Company Studio in "Photoplay Magazine Screen Supplement" (1918). The same afternoon showcases, "Faith" (1916), one of the earliest surviving films with Mary Miles Minter. Watch her star quality when she was just 14, the final title of the movie must be seen to be believed. Saturday evening shows feature "The Crab" (1917), "One a Minute" (1921) with short films "A Tour of the Thomas Ince Studio" (1924), a behind-the-scenes look at the studio in its heyday.

The entertainment continues through Sunday June 28 with films "The Evidence of the Film" (1913), "Just a Shabby Doll" (1913), "Foolish Wives" (1922) among many others.

These movies are as good as gold, preserving the heritage of film industry, full of good storylines, good acting, unexpected situations and significant character development. The festival introduces to you a riveting part of American history. So-called "silent films" are not really silent as world-class pianists, Judy Rosenberg, Jon Mirsalis, Phil Carli, and Bruce Loeb, accompany the action. The lilting tunes with the movies are a complete entertainment package not to be missed.

Matinee shows are $6 for members and $8 non-members, evening shows $8 members and $10 non-members. Since seating is limited, tickets should be purchased now. Festival passes are $45 members, $50 non-members. Tickets may be pre-ordered in person at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum during regular open hours on Saturdays and Sundays from Noon to 4 p.m. or during our Saturday night programs. By mail, simply print the ticket order form down from the website or ask for a copy at the museum. If ordering online through the website, a small convenience fee is added to cover PayPal charges. For more information about the Festival, and how to get tickets, visit

Get set to travel back in time and enjoy the enduring emotions these films evoke, bridging a century-wide generational gap.

Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival
Friday, June 26 to Sunday, June 28
Niles Edison Theater
37417 Niles Blvd., Fremont
(510) 494-1411
$8 members and $10 non-members

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